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article imageA popular blood pressure drug may be upping the risk of cancer

By Joan Firstenberg     Jun 14, 2010 in Health
Cleveland - Could a blood pressure drug used by millions of adults worldwide actually be causing cancer in some of them? The findings are reported in Sunday's Lancet Oncology Journal.
The blood pressure drug in question is angiotensin-receptor blockers or ARBs usually prescribed to treat high blood pressure, heart failure, and kidney damage due to diabetes.
The Daily Mail reports that this drug is similar to telmisartan, losartan and candesartan, which work by stopping a hormone that prevents blood vessels from dilating, the cause of high blood pressure. These drugs have been considered safe, except for pregnant women and patients with kidney problems. But one previous trial reported a big increase in fatal cancers in patients given candesartan.
Scientists say using ARB drugs to treat hypertension is now believed to be associated with a "modestly increased risk" of new cancers. But one scientist calls the findings
"disturbing and provocative."
To come up with this information, U.S. researchers analyzed previously published data from ARB studies before November 2009. They also looked at new data from five trials involving 61,590 patients.
They found that 7.2 per cent of patients taking ARBs were diagnosed with a new cancer over a period of four years, compared with 6 per cent of patients not taking the drugs. Lung cancer rates increased most sharply.
A scientific blog, quotes Dr. Ilke Sipahi, lead author of the study and associate director of heart failure and transplantation at University Hospitals Case Medical Center in Cleveland who is concerned
“The risk for the individual patient is modest, however, when you look at it from the population level, millions and millions of people are on these drugs and it can cause a lot of excess cancer worldwide. We have found the risk of new cancers was increased with these medications by 8 to 11 per cent. Most importantly, the risk of lung cancer was increased by 25 per cent."
A spokesman for Cancer Research warned patients
'People shouldn't stop taking these drugs on the basis of this research, if they're concerned they should speak to their GP".
It is expected that this study will prompt regulatory agencies to take a closer look at these drugs.
CNN tried to contact several of the ARB manufacturers, and got one response from Boehringer Ingelheim, which makes the drug telmisartan. Its response was to "strongly disagree" with the analysis, noting that in three of the studies, there was no association with an increased risk of cancer with its drug.
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